“Who’s the say whether performing sexual labour is a worse or more dehumanising job than manual labour or service-industry labour or working on an assembly line or waitressing, other than the person doing it? And let’s not get too romantic about how much choice the labour market allows anyone, or how great working conditions are across the board. It’s not as if we have all the vocational choices in the world: “Should I be a porn queen or … president of IBM?” [ … ] Contrary to some feminists, I think we have to operate on the basis that women are capable of making informed decisions about how to conduct their lives, and recognise at the same time that labour under capitalism is, by its nature, exploited.” Bound and Gagged, Laura Kipnis, p. xi – xii. (Duke 1999.) Of all the Kipnis’ in the world, I’d say Laura was my favourite.
Here is a petition addressed to the Prime Minister of Greece, requesting an immediate end to the mandatory HIV tests that sex workers in Greece are currently being subjected to. Whatever you think about sex worker rights – even if you call us “prostituted women” – this goes entirely contrary to any kind of effective (let alone ethical) fightback against HIV. It will increase the stigma and fear around HIV, which will discourage sex workers from engaging with medical professionals at all, or from getting tested.
Through our capacity to educate clients and each other, sex workers have long been recognised by reputable health NGOs as part of the solution to tackling the threat of HIV. Retrogressive, scapegoating, desperate policies like this one are part of the problem. Sign the petition!
Incidentally, here’s an article on some preliminary findings of a Glasgow PhD student (who I’ve met!), looking into the ramifications of decriminalisation for sex workers in New Zealand. The key paragraph: “Her research so far had found legalisation had given New Zealand sex workers health and safety rights as well as a sense of legitimacy and respectability in their work. Operating within the law also made negotiation with clients easier, allowing prostitutes to refuse jobs without repercussion from their managers.
Rapport between police and sex workers in New Zealand was also more positive than in Scotland, where relations between prostitutes and police were often strained”. Well done, NZ.